KBF was founded by my friend Amar. I first met Amar in 2004 when I visited Kolkata for the first time and he was volunteering at the same project. He was 17 and I was 21. We swapped contact details at the time and I thought no more of it.
In 2006, Amar set up Kolkata Bhalobashi Foundation (KBF) and started to tell me about the work. He started by going into the slum with his guitar and a few biscuits and gathering the children around him. They sang songs and learned a bit of English. From there he acquired a bamboo shack, given to him by the local people; when that was burned down, he was lent a small building by the local social club. That building really was small, but 45 children crammed in somehow to share in this small but growing KBF family!
At this point, teachers were taken on from the local area. The work of KBF began to take shape. The aim was (and still is) for children from the slum to be given a basic education in English and Bengali, so that they can be entered into one of the local government schools. Their books and equipment are then funded by KBF and they continue to receive food, clean drinking water and support with their studies back at KBF.
In 2011, we began a very small scale child sponsorship programme among a few friends and in 2013, we took our first group out to visit the school and do a play scheme with the children. It was a brilliant experience and from there, the sponsorship programme really began to grow. Friends of KBF was started by myself and two others, initially just as a bank account to raise money for the work.
The work continued to grow. KBF acquired its first rented building and this opened up opportunities that had not been possible before. The social club was only available to KBF in the mornings, but they had free reign of this building throughout the day (and so much more storage!). A Saturday club was started for children that couldn’t come to KBF during the week. This now regularly gets well over 100 children attending!
In 2015, a children’s club started up in the local red light district too.
At the same time, Amar was beginning to care for people he found dying and abandoned on the streets, cleaning their wounds and taking them to the local government hospital. Back in the UK, Friends of KBF were working closely with another organisation called Life Association, and in 2015, Amar opened a hospice with them, so that some of these people could be taken in and cared for. Some would be able to die with dignity and some, with a bit of tender loving care, went on to recover!
Now in 2017, Friends of KBF are setting out as a charity in their own right.
For those of you interested, “bhalobashi” means “love” in Bengali…. this is the theme that binds all of these projects together….KBF is all about demonstrating love in very practical ways to some of the poorest in Kolkata. Who knows what the future may hold?! All I know is that the work of KBF shows no sign of slowing down yet!